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Ex-Google China Head With 30 Million Followers Barred From Weibo

Lee Kai-fu, chief executive officer of Innovation Works, said in a September speech at a World Economic Forum conference in Tianjin, China, that the rising use of social media in China is one way to tackle the “big issue” of corruption. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
Lee Kai-fu, chief executive officer of Innovation Works, said in a September speech at a World Economic Forum conference in Tianjin, China, that the rising use of social media in China is one way to tackle the “big issue” of corruption. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Lee Kai-fu, the former head of Google Inc.’s China division, said he was banned for three days from posting on local micro-blogging sites, where he has more than 30 million followers.

The ban applies to Sina Corp.’s Weibo and a similar service run by Tencent Holdings Ltd., Lee said yesterday on Twitter Inc.’s micro-blogging site. Lee, who has about 1 million followers on Twitter, confirmed the posting by phone.

“I’ve been silenced on Sina and Tencent for three days, so everyone can come here to find me,” he said on Twitter, without giving a reason. Lee, who is now chairman and chief executive officer of Innovation Works, a Beijing-based technology-business incubator, declined to elaborate today.

Lee has used Weibo to complain about China’s Internet controls. A Feb. 16 post summarized a Wall Street Journal article about how slow speeds and instability deter overseas businesses from locating critical functions in China. Last month, he also posted support for staff of a Guangzhou-based newspaper during a standoff with government censors.

“You can be outspoken with 1 or 2 million fans, or a few hundred thousand, but 30 million followers is like a provincial radio or TV station,” said Bill Bishop, an independent technology industry consultant in Beijing. “I don’t know how many other people have that many.”

Liu Qi, a spokesman for Sina in Beijing, declined to comment. Jerry Huang, a director of investor relations for Tencent in Shenzhen, didn’t respond to a telephone message and e-mail seeking comment.

China controls access to the Internet, including blocking Twitter, Facebook Inc. and Google’s YouTube, to limit dissent and criticism of the ruling Communist Party.

Lee also said in a September speech at a World Economic Forum conference in Tianjin, China, that the rising use of social media in China is one way to tackle the “big issue” of corruption.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Edmond Lococo in Beijing at elococo@bloomberg.net; Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong at ychen447@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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